I see no need to finish the above saying, for I know all the readers of FRANK. Magazine who grew up in Kentucky heard this saying. It was 151 years ago in 1872 that the U.S. Army asked the American arms makers to submit a proposal for a new revolver to equip the U.S. cavalry. This competition was won in 1873, 150 years ago, by Colt Manufacturing Company with their Single Action New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol chambered for six .45 caliber cartridge.
This Single Action pistol today is better known as the Colt 1873 Army. The Colt 1873 Army would serve with the U.S. Army through the first decades of the 20th century, being replaced during World War I by the Colt M1911A automatic pistol. All owners of the Colt 1873 Army knew that, while the revolver had six chambers, the prudent soldier only put five rounds in the gun, keeping the chamber under the hammer empty in case of an accidental firing of the gun.
The Colt 1873 Army was such a well-designed pistol that the American civilian population began to request the right to purchase the gun. Colt Manufacturing, seeing a ready market for Colt 1873 Army, began to produce the weapon for the civilian market under the name “Peacemaker.” The demand by the civilian population continued up through the first decade of the 20th century. Following World War I, neither the Army or civilians were interested in purchasing the Colt 1873 Army/Peacemaker pistol, and Colt closed their production line. Thus, ended the first production series of the 1873 Army.
Hollywood now entered the scene and began to flood the nation’s movie houses with Western movies. All the heroes of the silver screen, Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hoot Gibson and Johnny Mack Brown, shot it out with outlaws while firing a trusty Colt Peacemaker, although their guns fired sometimes six rounds or more before reloading. As a result of Hollywood, there was once again a civilian demand for the Colt Peacemaker, and Colt Manufacturing reopened its production line. All of us kids in the 1940s owned cap firing Colt Peacemakers, with which we shot it out with the bad guys. I got a cap firing Peacemaker for my 10th birthday.
The civilian demand during the period 1950 to 1970 only grew for Colt Peacemakers as television beamed daily into every American home a western. The opening scene in “Gunsmoke” had Marshall Matt Dillion firing a Colt Peacemaker, and “Have Gun Will Travel” opened with Paladin drawing his Colt Peacemaker. The Colt Peacemaker was also the gun used by the TV cowboys: Hopalong Cassidy, Lone Ranger and Cisco Kid. All too soon the old machines used by Colt Manufacturing Company to make the Peacemaker began to show their age and could no longer maintain the tolerance needed to produce a Colt firearm; thus, production of the second series of 1873 Army/Peacemaker pistols stopped.
Yet the civilian demand for the Colt Peacemaker did not end. Other gun producers began to turn out the Peacemaker, not only in .45 caliber, but other calibers. Thus, Colt built all new equipment so it could once again produce the 1873 Army. Today, the Colt Peacemaker can be bought at Mike’s or Gilbert’s in Frankfort.
On display on the second floor of the Capital City Museum is a cowboy gun rig used by Frankfort’s Bob Custer in 1920 era silent western movies. Both holsters on the belt hold a Colt Peacemaker chambered for a .45 round. These guns, serial numbered 342980 and 348203, were part of Colt’s second production run.
It is not often that something first manufactured 150 years ago is still in demand and is manufactured by various firearm companies around the world. The Colt New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol or, should we call it the 1873 Army, or the Peacemaker, is still being sold for use in cowboy shooting competitions or just plain old pistol shooting competitions.
Interestingly, Colt Army 1873 serial number “1” still exists in a private collection. A missing Colt Peacemaker is #59432, which once was owned by Jesse James and used by Bob Ford to kill Jesse as Jesse straightens a picture hanging on the wall in his living room.
For those of you who are not native Kentuckians, we will save you the time you would have spent looking up the complete opening quote on the internet. The complete quote is, “God created man but Sam Colt made them equal.”